Daniel is a geology major and a senior at the University of Texas at Arlington. He wrote this essay for an Argumentative Writing class over the summer. He received an “A” grade for the paper. On the last day of class Daniel’s class conducted a symposium in which each student presented their final argument paper to the class. By the end of his presentation he had converted at least a few people to the pro-cloning position.
Early in 1997 Scottish scientist Dr. Ian Wilmot revealed to the world that he had successfully cloned an entire adult sheep. Dolly was the young clone’s given name. With this announcement the world made a collective gasp at the realization that no longer was cloning a pipe dream or an element of science fiction movies. Immediately, cloning became one of the most debated topics in the world. From the school house to the White House discussions began regarding the ethical implications of cloning. Those in favor of cloning argue that the technology will eventually lead to numerous benefits for humankind. Benefits such as infertility clinics to assist reproductively challenged couples in having genetically related children, the growing and healing of wounded or diseased tissues and organs, the curing of diseases such as cancer and leukemia, and possibly the cloning of important historical figures such as scientists, politicians, and artists are all claims made by proponents of cloning. Conversely, opponents of cloning say that it is immoral and unethical to clone human beings for both religious and humanitarian reasons. Their arguments are very thoughtful and concerned ideas, such as the fear that cloning will lead to the “10,000 Hitlers” scenario, or that cloning is an unnatural process that is sacrilegious, and the belief that the clone will suffer some sort of trauma because they lack a unique genetic identity. All of these reason are valid concerns, but, when held to close scrutiny do they really hold up as adequate reasons to put an all out ban on cloning and all research into cloning of human cells? Quite simply stated the answer is “no”. The object of this essay is to argue this side of this highly sensitive and complicated issue.
First off, it seems logical that one needs to know in slightly more technical language what cloning is. It is not enough to simply say that cloning is the creation of another person that is an exact copy of another person. That just leaves too much to the imagination and leads to misunderstanding of the procedure. In the simplest technical language, cloning is the process in which the DNA of a female egg cell is replaced with different DNA from another cell. The technique is also referred to as Nuclear Transfer or Nuclear Substitution. In the operation, the nucleus, which is the part of a cell which contains the DNA molecules, from an unfertilized female egg cell is carefully removed and then replaced with the nucleus from a cell of another person (Harris 4). Then, the cell is manipulated into believing that it has been fertilized and is then implanted into the womb of the mother just as is done in the process of in vitro fertilization. Afterwards, the embryo develops into a fetus and is born after nine months, just like any other baby (Dumestic 1). What this means is that the cloned baby only differs from other babies in the fact that they share the same exact DNA with another person, just like identical twins, only the clone is much younger than its twin. The child will grow up to be a completely different person. They will not share memories and experiences, and will not be anymore like their twin than natural identical twins are alike. Now that cloning has been explained, what are the benefits of this amazing technology?
The first and possibly most poignant argument in favor of keeping cloning legal is as a way to help couples who cannot conceive a child naturally. There are many couples is the world in which one or both of the individuals is unable to naturally donate their genes for the purpose of procreation. However, through cloning, these people would have a chance to give birth to a child that is genetically related to them. This, to many people, is more desirable than raising an adopted child or using sperm and eggs from an unrelated donor. This way the parents will be relieved and assured that their genes will be passed on to future generations. It was announced in late 1997 by Dr. Richard Seed that he would open a fertility clinic in either the United States or Mexico by 1999 to help infertile couple using cloning.
The next argument points out other very important medical benefits that could be obtained through cloning technology. It is possible through cloning to grow “spare parts” to be used in organ transplants. Once the cloning of a cell has been done and the cell has begun to divide it does not necessarily have to grow into an entire person. Through related techniques the cells could be controlled so that they only develop into specialized cells or even complete organs. For example, a heart or a kidney could be grown outside of the body to be used in organ transplants without fear of rejection from the recipient’s body, eliminating the need for anti-rejection drugs (Nash 1). Simpler tissues such as skin cells have already been cloned in laboratories for use in skin grafts for burn victims.
Another possible medical advance that could be developed through cloning research is the diagnosis and even curing of genetic diseases such as diabetes. Before an artificially fertilized embryo is implanted a cell from the embryo could be cloned and analyzed for genes that cause diseases. This way an embryo with the highest chance of good health and survival could be selected for implantation. This could also lead to diagnosis and prevention of, or even the creation of resistance to diseases such as cancer or AIDS (Dumesic 1). Also, products that are needed by humans could be artificially produced by animals through cloning and genetic engineering. Genes from humans that produce necessary proteins, for example, could be included in animal DNA so that the animal would produce that protein in its milk or blood. The protein could then be extracted and used in human treatments of various diseases or disorders (Dumesic 2).
Another case for cloning is presented by Steven Vere who says, “Exceptional people are valuable in many ways, both culturally and financially” (Vere 2). Vere, like many others, argues that the cloning would allow the “re-birth” of exceptional or important historical figures of science, politics, and entertainment. For example, cloning brilliant mathematicians and physicists such as Sir Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein, to name only two, could have great benefits for science. While the clones of these people would not be like the originals in every way it is believed that their capacity for intelligence would be as great if not greater. Studies have shown that identical twins who are raised apart often share similar personalities and intelligence, even though they possessed entirely different experience and background (Vere 3). Similarly, cloning people with outstanding sports or artistic skills such as basketball star Michael Jordan or painter/sculptor Michelangelo would be applauded by sports fans and art lovers everywhere.
There are many arguments against cloning which support its outlawing. However, the majority of these arguments are not based on science or logical reason and are therefore easily open to criticism. It would not be right to say flatly that these opinions are wrong. Morality and ethics are issues of personal opinion that can not really be absolutely refuted, but they are mostly based on religious beliefs that are not shared by all, and on fears that stem from a lack of knowledge of what cloning really is and what it can do for us.
There are many examples of these ideas that can be argued against. Probably the most often argued point is that cloning is not natural and is tantamount to “playing God.” This might be a valid argument if every person in the world shared the same religious beliefs and even believed in God. However, this is obviously not so. Religious diversity in America alone is too great to justify one sector determining the lawfulness or morality of anyone else’s beliefs. There are several practices that are not allowed by various religions, yet they are not outlawed. The Jewish faith does not permit the consumption of pork but anyone can still go to the supermarket and buy bacon. Catholics are not allowed by their faith to use contraception but condoms and birth control pills are still available to whomever wants them. (Hume 1).
Another fear is that cloning will diminish the clones sense of genetic identity and will also lead to a feeling of cheapening of human life. This is a possibility, but there are thousands of identical twins born naturally every day around the world. Nobody claims that any of these twins lack their own identity. Plus, a clone will be even less like its counterpart than natural twins. The clone will be raised in different times and places and will be shaped by their environment. (Hume 2). Others fear that because cloning will have a price that it will put a price on the creation of human life thus diminishing its value.
Fears based on irrational ideas about cloning include the so called “10,000 Hitlers” scenario. Evil dictators could use cloning to create an army of clones of themselves to take over the world. This is just simply an unjustified fear. First of all, to clone 10,000 evil dictators you would need 10,000 women who are willing to carry an evil clone for nine months. And even then it would take years for the clones to be raised to maturity. Second, it should be argued that being “evil” is probably a learned behavior. Each of the ten thousand clones would be a product of their environment which would not be the same environment in which Hitler or whoever was raised. (Hume 2). And finally, how many evil dictators are there in the world that lead countries which could even afford the technology let alone afford to use it 10,000 times at once? It is clear that this is a highly unlikely situation. People also fear that the clones would be used as slaves of as banks of spare parts to be chopped up whenever a part is needed. This too is a ridiculous proposition. Just like the 10,000 Hitlers these clones would have their own minds and wills. Also, cloning is not needed for there to be slaves or stealing of body parts. Slavery was an institution for hundreds of years in America without the help of cloning. In China it was exposed that prisoners had unwillingly had organs removed for sale on the black market. With this aside, if cloning technology is advanced, bodies for spare parts would not be needed since the necessary organs could be grown outside of bodies as was mentioned earlier.
Finally, there are those that say cloning is selfish and some just have funny feelings about it. There are thousands of children waiting to be adopted in countries all over the world. To use cloning to have a child would be a selfish act of neglect of those children. It is true that there are children that could be adopted, but to say that cloning is selfish in this respect is like saying that anyone who has their own child is selfish because they too could adopt rather than having their own child (Hume 4). As for the funny feelings or what is often called the “Yuk Factor”, it is hardly a reason to ban anything. People can feel funny about anything under the sun without justification for outlawing it.
People should be educated about cloning rather than being told that it is bad. They should learn about cloning and draw conclusions based on that, not on what they read in novels or see in movies. Cloning is still a young science that is imperfect. Only research will lead to its improvement and perfection. To ban this research will result in the loss of a technology that will someday cure diseases, or prevent the deaths of people who wait endlessly for an organ for transplant, or even give hope to people who otherwise cannot have their own child. Which action, banning or not banning, is really the less ethical choice?
Dumesic, Dr. Daniel A. “Cloning Babies For Infertile Couples?” Mayo Health Oasis. (1998): 2 pp. Online. Internet. 3 August 1998. Available: http://www.mayohealth.org/mayo/9802/htm/clone.htm.
Nash, J. Madeleine. “The Case For Cloning.” Time.com. (1998): 2 pp. Online. Internet. 3 August 1998. Available: http://pathfinder.com/time/magazine/1998/dom/980209/.
Vere, Dr. Steven. “The Case For Cloning Humans.” (1998): 11 pp. Online. Internet. 27 July 1998. Available: http://www.best.com/~vere/cloning.htm.
Hume. “Why an Infertile Woman With No Viable Eggs Wants Human Cloning As Explained By Her Husband.” The Human Cloning Home Page. (1998): 4 pp. Online. Internet. 27 July 1998. Available: http://www.humancloning.org/ hume.htm.
Harris, John. “Goodbye Dolly? The Ethics of Human Cloning.” Journal of Medical Ethics. December 1997. 17 pp.
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